In the second month of the second year after they had arrived at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak, and the rest of their associates including the priests, the Levites, and all who had returned to Jerusalem from the captivity, began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years of age or older to supervise the construction of the house of the LORD.
I. The. JOYFUL. in religious WORSHIP. "They sang together" (ver. 11).
1. That God will deign to consecrate by his Presence the temple erected. God will dwell in the temple made with hands; what a condescension and benediction is this toward man; hence the joy.
2. What God is in himself to those who worship him. "Because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel" (ver. 11).
3. In the strength which worship imparts during the trying circumstances of life. Who can tell the gladness put into the heart of Israel during their arduous task by their worship. Worship inspires joy in time of difficulty.
4. In the progress of religious enterprise. Another house to be erected for moral uses.
5. In religious youth the joy of worship is eminently strong. Natural feeling combines with spiritual delight.
II. The SORROWFUL in religious WORSHIP. "Wept with a loud voice" (ver. 12).
1. That sin has thrown life into such a condition that a temple should be necessary. Eden had no temple; heaven has none. Sin has rendered necessary the material aids to worship.
2. That disobedience should ever violate the holy sanctuary of God. The first temple had been destroyed; its glory had departed.
3. That the best temple man could build should be so poor and imperfect. The poverty of their work awakened tears.
4. That the temple should be so little cared for by man, and that so little good should be gained by its frequenters; so many of their comrades were left in Babylon.
III. THE BLENDING-OF JOY AND SORROW IN RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. "So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people" (ver. 13).
1. A scene in the soul. In the soul joy blends with sorrow.
2. A scene in the sanctuary. In the same Church joy and sorrow blend in the experience of the worshippers.
3. A scene in the world. Sorrow and joy blend on earth.
4. Not a scene in heaven; there no more tears. - E.
I. THAT DIFFICULTIES OUGHT NOT TO DISCOURAGE US IN THE LORD'S WORK. Paucity of numbers and feebleness of resources. Enemies.
From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt-offerings unto the Lord.— A weighty truth is enshrined in this apparently incongruous fact. The worship itself is felt to be more important than the house in which it is to be celebrated (John 4:21-24). How vain is it, then, to treat the erection of churches as though it were a revival of religion! As surely as the empty seashell can never secrete a living organism to inherit it, a mere building — whether it be the most gorgeous cathedral or the plainest village meeting-house — will never induce a living spirit of worship to dwell in its cold desolation. Every true revival of religion begins in the spiritual sphere.
(Walter F. Adeney, M. A.)
They gave money also unto the carpentersI. THE GREAT WORK YET TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. This illustrates —
1. The incompleteness of human joys.
2. The incompleteness of human works.The altar was built, but the temple was not begun. The work of the earnest man is never accomplished. Even when death approaches, most men have much which they desire to accomplish. This incompleteness of our human works is also ordered wisely and well. It tends to prevent stagnation; to rouse to earnest activities, etc.
3. The obligation of the Church of God. The Jews at Jerusalem felt themselves bound not to rest content with the joys and blessings of the altar, but to proceed to the more arduous task of rebuilding the temple.
II. THE PROMPT PREPARATIONS FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS WORK. Two points claim attention —
1. The variety of service and the unity of design.
2. The co-operation of Jews and Gentiles.Conclusion —
1. Are we "as living stones built up" in the spiritual temple of God? (1 Peter 2:4-6).
2. Are we also assisting to build this glorious temple? (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
II. THE READINESS OF THE PEOPLE TO GIVE OF THEIR MEANS UNTO THE LORD (Ezra 2:68, 69). Their first care was the house of God. Without homes of their own, their cities in ruins, with a thousand demands pressing upon them, they nevertheless provided first of all for the worship of the temple. How needful the lesson! God's house before our own. God first and afterward self. This work first, and then our own.
1. They offered willingly. It was not the tithe which they were required by law to give. It was a free-will offering to God, and hence all the more acceptable (2 Corinthians 9:7).
2. They gave according to their ability. Proportionate giving as God has prospered us is one of the most pressing needs of the Church to-day. It is a duty as plainly enjoined as prayer and praise (Deuteronomy 16:17; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
III. THE PEOPLE WERE READY TO WORK AS WELL, AS GIVE. The Church needs willing workers even more than generous givers. Hearts and hands are always worth more than gold and silver.
1. They worked unitedly. The people laboured "as one" (margin). Their counsels were not divided. There were no jealousies, no personal ambitions to hinder the progress of the undertaking.
2. The work was systematically prosecuted. Zeal and energy were displayed, but without making them substitutes for intelligence and adaptation. One of the great needs of God's people is appreciation of the advantages of systematic work.
IV. THANKFUL JOY IN THE LORD'S SERVICE. The ancient men wept with a loud voice as they saw the foundation of the new house laid. Yet, after all, their weeping may have had nothing in it of the spirit of murmuring. Tears are ofttimes expressive of the deepest joy.
"There's not a string attuned to mirth
But has its chord in melancholy."The joy that is touched with pain is the noblest of joys. The sweetest music is written in the minor key. Possibly the noise of their weeping was more grateful to God than the shouts of their younger companions.
(Rufus S. Green, D. D.)
Sermons by Monday Club.I. THE BUILDING OF THIS TEMPLE WAS A VISIBLE AND ABIDING TESTIMONY TO MAN'S FIRM FAITH IN THE EXISTENCE AND POWER OF THE GOD OF HEAVEN. "The mystery of holy shrines," says Kinglake, "lies deep in human nature. However the "more spiritual minds may be able to rise and soar, the common man, during his mortal career, is tethered to the globe that is his appointed dwelling-place; and the more his affections are pure and holy, the more they seem to blend with some sacred spot, that belongs to the outward and visible world?' Temples tell us of one who is invisible. As Jacob set up an altar in the place where God talked with him and called the name of the place Bethel, so always men have erected memorial stones to commemorate their faith in God.
II. THE TEMPLES AND ALTARS WHICH MAN BUILDS DIGNIFY A DESIRE ON HIS PART FOR NEARER AND MORE CONSTANT COMMUNION WITH GOD. From the first God had revealed Himself as One who was ready to meet with His people, to draw aside the veil, at least in part, and commune with them from off the holy place. Outside the walls of Eden He appeared above the altar of Abel. Whenever, in later times, the patriarchs set up an altar and called on the name of the Lord, they expected that He would come and sanctify the spot by His presence. They were not disappointed. Enoch walked with Him; Noah built an ark under His direction; Abraham saw His day; to Jacob He appeared again and again; He talked with Moses and showed His glory to Isaiah; Elijah's altar was touched with fire; to the whole people He showed a pillar of cloud and flame, and commanded them, saying, "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them," and when it was finished, the shekinah appeared, God dwelt in the Holy of holies, and from off the fiery seat talked with His prophets and priests. Although under the Christian dispensation the idea of communion with God is ennobled, and the fellowship made more exalted and spiritual, so that Jesus Christ is now our true sanctuary and passover, still the old conception is not altogether abandoned. While the veil of the temple is rent in twain and every common bush is aflame with God, still there is a special blessing for those who meet together in the sanctuary. The place of worship is correctly spoken of as the "meeting house," the meeting-house where man comes to meet his God.
III. THE CONDUCT OF THESE TEMPLE BUILDINGS INDICATES DETERMINATION AND SELF-SACRIFICE.
(Sermons by Monday Club.)
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